Sequoia Sunrise by Mark A. Fisher

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Sequoia Sunrise
by Mark A. Fisher

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starlight
hanging down
through the silent
red giants
while the thumbnail moon
spills silver light
that pools in the meadows
and slowly seeps out
into the forest
’til the barest hints
of red in the eastern sky
makes the first bird begin to
drowsily sing, rousing chickaree
hidden high up in the trees
and answered by a woodpecker
beating beating beating out the rhythm
for the chorus building in a crescendo with the light

above this bright morning cacophony
the sequoias
listen

Previously published in Avocet Summer 2010

PHOTO: Sunset Campground, Kings Canyon National Park, Hume, California. Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

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NOTE: Sequoia National Park was established on September 25, 1890 to protect 404,064 acres of forested mountainous terrain in Northern California. The park is notable for its giant sequoia trees, including the General Sherman tree, the largest tree on Earth by volume. The park’s giant sequoia forests are part of 202,430 acres of old-growth forests shared by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The giant sequoia is the world’s most massive tree, and arguably the largest living organism on Earth. The largest giant sequoias are as tall as a 26-story building, and the width of their bases can exceed that of a city street.

PHOTO: The General Sherman tree in Sequoia National Park (Tulare County, California). With a height of 275 feet, a diameter of 25 feet, and an estimated age of 2,300–2,700 years, it is among the tallest, widest, and longest-lived of all trees on the planet. Photo by Tuxyso, used by permission. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark A. Fisher is a writer, poet, and playwright living in Tehachapi, California.  His poetry has appeared in riverbabble, Spectrum, Silver Blade, Penumbra, Lummox, and many other places. His first chapbook, drifter, is available from Amazon. His second, hour of lead, won the 2017 San Gabriel Valley Poetry Chapbook Contest. 

I’m traveling back in time by Mathias Jansson

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I’m traveling back in time
by Mathias Jansson

I’m traveling back in time
to the north of Sweden
to my parents’ place
where I was born

I’m traveling back in time
follow my childhood path
the path I used to run
through the forest
down to the river

I’m traveling back in time
to a time when I sat
on the stone by the water
fishing as a child

I’m traveling back in time
to place that no longer exists
so much has changed
in my life
and at my childhood place

I’m traveling back in time
to a place that now only exist
on the sunny memory lane.

PHOTO: River Ångerman near Veda, on the border between the municipalities of Härnösand and Kramfors in the province of Ångermanland, Sweden. Photo by Thomas Boettcher, used by permission. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mathias Jansson is a Swedish art critic and poet. He has contributed with poetry to different magazines and anthologies, including Maintenant: A Journal of Contemporary Dada and Silver Birch Press. Visit his home page and Amazon author’s page

New Orleans by Anne Whitehouse

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New Orleans
by Anne Whitehouse

In this city the Church had dominion over the dead,
but the dead would not stay buried.
They rose up out of the ground
when the river overflowed and the ground turned to water.
Fevers, vapors, and miasmas circulated,
the air so humid it was another form of water.
Pale, wide, and muddy, the river loomed,
and the earth opened up, spilling out pestilence.

It’s a wonder that anyone remained
after the floods and epidemics,
the storms and hurricanes,
but the city was hard to leave once its charms ensnared you
like those shimmering gossamer webs of sunlight
that hang over the heavy magnolia leaves
after a rain clears the late afternoon
and the sky turns pink. In old, high-ceilinged rooms
with their heavy crown moldings,
fans mimic a breeze, and the rows of shotgun houses
are swept by breezes, front to back.

A repast outside a funeral home after a burial
spills its exuberance onto the street.
People are drinking and swaying
to the blaring euphonies of a brass band
in free-form improvisation.
Death and sadness are right there,
but a bright band of frenzy
has trapped the despair and contained it,
and the only notes we hear are those of joy.

PHOTO: Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Colin Ross, used by permission. 

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “New Orleans” was inspired by a trip to New Orleans a few years ago, particularly the tour I took of Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 and by our fortuitously coming across a repast outside a funeral home.

PHOTO: Entrance to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Mein Zahn, used by permission. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Whitehouse is the author of seven poetry collections, most recently Outside from the Insidejust out from Dos Madres Press, as well as a novel, Fall Love.

Via Lactea by Robert Lima

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Via Lactea
On the Photograph by Dionisio Ameal Pacheco
by Robert Lima

The old hórreo, a granary on the Rio Minho,
receives the torrent of stars into its wooden hold.
It is a stellar blessing on the landscape
of the ancient Celtic peoples,
sons of Breogán, that begat the line.

A bountiful engagement of primal matter
and elemental Earth,
the stars falling on Galicia,
melded in the deep hold of the hórreo.

PHOTO: “Via Lactea” (Milky Way) Galicia, Spain, by Dionisio Ameal Pacheco, used by permission. 

NOTE: Galicia is an autonomous community and historic region of Spain, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west and by Portugal to the south. The autonomous community of Galicia was established on April 6, 1981. Galicia has a parliament, headed by a president, and a unicameral assembly. The capital is Santiago de Compostela, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. 

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ROBERT LIMA, is a Cuban-born award-winning poet, and an internationally recognized critic, bibliographer, playwright, and translator. As a Greenwich Village poet during the 1960s, he read at coffeehouses and other venues, co-edited Seventh Street: Poems of Les Deux Megots, introduced by Denise Levertov, and the second series of Judson Review. His 15 poetry collections include Celestials, Elementals, Sardinia/Sardegna, Ikons of the Past. Poetry of the Hispanic Americas and Writers on My Watch (2020). Over 600 of his poems have appeared in print in the U.S. and abroad. Eleven of his poems have just appeared in Greek translation in Noima Magazine. Among his numerous critical studies are works on García Lorca, Valle-Inclán, Borges, Surrealism, folklore, dramatic literature, and translations of plays and poetry.

Père Lachaise by Jennifer Lagier

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Père Lachaise
by Jennifer Lagier

Our guide, Jean-Jacques,
tells us stories,
reads inscriptions
on mausoleums.
Marks a map as I
explore a city of death
with expatriate friends.
We pass grandiose memorials.
Angels and antichrists decompose
beside housewives and saints.
Fading lipstick kisses polka dot
Oscar Wilde’s neutered sphinx.
According to rumor, a bureaucrat
anchors his paperwork with
the severed stone sex.
Someone has stolen Jim Morrison’s
bronze bust, a poppy and twist
of marijuana left in its place.
Gertrude Stein holds her final soiree
among deceased literati.
Effigies of the Buchenwald slaughtered
hold hands and dance.

PHOTO: Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France, showing the grave of composer Frédéric  Chopin (1810-1849). Photo by Pixabay, used by permission. 

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NOTE: Père Lachaise Cemetery, the largest cemetery in Paris, France, is visited by more than 3.5 million people each year. Established as a cemetery by Napoleon in 1804, it is named for the confessor to Louis XIVPère François de la Chaise (1624–1709).  Père Lachaise is still an operating cemetery, but will only accommodate individuals who die in Paris or have lived there. Many renowned people are buried in Père Lachaise. 

PHOTO:  Père Lachaise Cemetery by Coco Parisienne, used by permission. 

jen-20161ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Lagier has published eighteen books. Her work appears in From Everywhere a Little: A Migration Anthology, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, Missing Persons: Reflections on Dementia, Silent Screams: Poetic Journeys Through Addiction & Recovery. Her newest book is Camille Comes Unglued (Cyberwit). Forthcoming is Meditations on Seascapes and Cypress (Blue Light Press). Visit her at jlagier.net.

Pont Alexandre III by Beverly M. Collins

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Pont Alexandre III 
by Beverly M. Collins

An ageless ornament adorns the
hand of flow

The past and future kiss a nymph
arch in the middle that slide
to the shining bend of winged
horses that kick on both sides

Upon narrow thin-ness stands
Copper’s pull on the push of gold.
distinguished gold’s steady gaze
sternly fixed on copper’s mischief.

As both silently envy the free,
determine and playful babble
of water that moves below them.
A meek ripple bashful in sound
and bold in its colorful history.

PHOTO: Pont Alexandre III, Paris, France. Photo by Skeeze, used by permission.

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NOTE: The Pont Alexandre III is a deck arch bridge that spans the River Seine in Paris, France. The Beaux-Arts style bridge, with its Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses at either end, was built between 1896 and 1900. It is named after Tsar Alexander III, who had concluded the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892. His son Nicholas II laid the foundation stone in October 1896. Designed by architects Joseph Cassien-Bernard and Gaston Cousin, it was inaugurated in 1900 for the Exposition Universelle (universal exhibition) World’s Fair.

PHOTO: Pont Alexandre III place marker. Photo by David Mark.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Beverly M. Collins is the author of Quiet Observations: Diary thought, Whimsy and Rhyme and Mud in Magic. Her work has also appeared in California Quarterly, Poetry Speaks! A year of Great Poems and Poets, The Hidden and The Divine Female Voices in Ireland, The Journal of Modern Poetry, Spectrum, The Altadena Poetry Review, Lummox, The Galway Review (Ireland), Verse of Silence (New Delhi), Merak Magazine (London), Scarlet Leaf Review (Canada), The Wild Word Magazine (Berlin), Indigomania (Australia) and many others.  She is the winner of a 2019 Naji Naaman Literary Prize in Creativity (from Lebanon). Collins is also a prize winner for the California State Poetry Society and has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, once for Independent Best American Poetry and short-listed for the 2018 Pangolin Review Poetry Prize (Mauritius).

Cape Cod by Joan McNerney

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Cape Cod
by Joan McNerney

Hearing waves from a distance and
feeling sea breezes brush our faces,
it seemed a century before we
came to the ocean.

So blue and bright to our eyes
its rhythm broke chains of
unremarkable days.

Over cool sand we ran and you picked
three perfect shells which fit
inside each other. Swimming away in
that moving expanse below kiss
of fine spray and splashes.

With clouds cumulus we drifted while
gulls circled the island. Together we
discovered beds of morning glories
climbing soft dunes.

PHOTO: Lighthouse, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Photo by Mark Martins, used by permission.

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NOTE: Cape Cod is a peninsula extending into the Atlantic Ocean from the southeastern corner of mainland Massachusetts. It extends 65 miles into the Atlantic Ocean, with a breadth of 1-20 miles. The Elizabeth Islands are located to the southwest, and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket lie to the south. The Cape Cod Canal, 17.5 miles long, cuts across the base of the peninsula, separating it from the mainland.

IMAGE: Map of Massachusetts, showing location of Cape Cod.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My husband was also a great swimmer. How we loved to go to the Cape on a long weekend when we lived in Boston.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan McNerney’s poetry is found in many literary magazines, such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Poet Warriors, Blueline, and Halcyon Days, as well as in four Bright Hills Press anthologies, several editions of the  Poppy Road Review, and numerous Spectrum Publications.  Her latest title, The Muse In Miniature, is available on Amazon.com and Cyberwit.net.  She has four Best of the Net nominations.

In the Mountains by Laurel Benjamin

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In the Mountains
              Rocky Mountains, after Pablo Neruda’s “Walking Around”
by Laurel Benjamin

It so happens that I live in the mountains
with goats’ many-directional hair and
white cliffs until June
when I leave forever
the expansive hoary spectacles
which magnify each moraine.

The scent of my friend the coyote reminds me,
his saliva full of punctured granite—
on his smooth journey up boulder faces
he has spied monkey flower and blue columbine
knows no misery in his haunt.

It so happens that I circle the top
where tourists drive on interstate highway elevation
over 12,000 feet, no blossoms on new snow—
the sign says “Sensitive area. Keep off.”

I would feel lucky rolling the dice
over in Nevada, but I don’t believe
in the root and the saw
or series of mishaps—
I have as much power as I’d like
have seen the corpses of elk
bones run raw after winter
candelabra for mourners
in a dining room for the wealthy.

I don’t want to go on
with the song I was raised to sing
winging close to stars until I can no longer
rise, until I can stretch my fabric no more.

I want what the past offers
unrealistic, impossible, whipped cream,
nuts, a cherry, and caramel sauce
on top of toasted almond ice cream,
knotty pine cabin beside a Spring river
which catches the same branch over and over,
chairs facing each other
pad of paper and a pen
cup of hot tea.

That’s why I’m branded for life—
someone etched it into my bones
before I left the hospital
never a cheery word from the nurse
and the curtains
stripes one way, circles the other
dripping of coffee candies
not the purple sours my father loved.

And it pushes me on in spite of
this weight—the message of attachment—
is it need, assertion, hopelessness, or hope?

There are valleys I have never seen
between mountains I have never traveled
with a different kind of sedge,
words none can read
except the scholars—

I climb even if I don’t want to
without and within, fescue and horseshoe,
where moose look up and return to feeding
instead of hiding behind the drain of some bush,
where the ring-necked duck
bobs at the same time as its mate
rather than keeping watch.

I climb rather than stay
where there is only dry grass,
empty yards, discarded recycling pails,
scissors, nail file
electric toothbrush
the bed, the chair—
where there are walls, gardens,
peacocks, and crows.

PHOTO: Rocky Mountains, Alberta, Canada. Photo by James Wheeler, used by permission.

NOTE: The Rocky Mountains stretch 3,000 miles from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico in the Southwestern United States.  The Rocky Mountains formed 80 million to 55 million years ago during the Laramide orogeny, in which a number of plates began sliding underneath the North American plate. Of the 100 highest peaks in the Rocky Mountains, 78 are located in Colorado, 10 in Wyoming, six in New Mexico, three in Montana, and one in Utah.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I spent ten days hiking in May one year in the Rockies, and was astounded by the wildlife. Neruda helped me give form to the narrative.

PHOTO: The author hiking in the Rocky Mountains.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laurel Benjamin lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women’s PoetryCalifornia Quarterly, The Midway Review, among othersShe is affiliated with the Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and the Port Townsend Writers. More of her work can be found at thebadgerpress.blogspot.com.

Always Iowa by Janet Banks

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Always Iowa
by Janet Banks

Not one recognizable face on the plane,
in the airport John Deere memorabilia
beckon from the gift shop,
the state, empty of love.

Mother, spiffed up, her coiffure a pale shade
of apricot, Dad chewing on a bit of paper
to calm his nerves as he paces,
both long gone to graves. No welcoming.

Kathy, once the closest of sisters
Until the falling out,
Dead and buried too.
No apology awaits.

Me, a town girl, too soft for farm life,
no interest in hard labor, the science of agriculture,
dependence on the whims of weather,
the isolation, fled to the Isle of Manhattan.

Sixteen years absent, I return.
So much sky, oyster-grey clouds
tinged a bluish purple, weather in the wind.
Gravel kicks up dust, roads narrow and straight,
close to the corn.

I mourn as my father would to see paint peeling off
our former home. Out back the climbing roses
always blooming on my birthday, gone.
Gone too are the plum tree, the lilac and gooseberry bushes, the cherry tree.
The lightning bugs that flickered on summer nights?
Perhaps they still return at dusk.

A neighbor boy who never left his mother’s home, now old like me, answers,
“It’s the cancer mostly.”
Mother’s young friends, Larry and Diane across the street,
dead. Meryl’s wife, Diane dead. Mrs. Walker, gone,
my playmate, another Diane, dead.

Polished pink granite waist high, modest,
reads simply O’Donnell. Parents’ headstones bracket
Helen’s their first born daughter, the sister I never met,
her grave lovingly tended.
Helen was always with us, always missing.

I skipped through childhood in the Sunny Hill Cemetery
avoiding the grassy mounds so as not to disturb.
Death was always pending. The buckeye nuts,
thought to bring one luck, souvenirs,
now on my desk at home in Boston, at my fingertips.

PHOTO: Iowa farm photo by Pixabay. 

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I returned to Iowa in 2016 for what I assumed would be a final goodbye to the geography of my youth. The itinerary: Six days; eight towns; seven hundred miles of highway. After writing an essay about the trip, I was inspired to compress the highlights into verse. The Drake University sweatshirt commemorates a 50th anniversary, and my choice to move on.

PHOTO: The author in Iowa (2016). 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Janet Banks is a writer who is exploring the joys and challenges of aging in real time. Her personal essays have been published by Cognoscenti, The Rumpus, Entropy Magazine, Silver Birch Press, and Persimmon Tree among other on-line sites. Shortly after retiring from a corporate career, she was published in the Harvard Business Review. Her essay is included in HBR’s Summer 2020 Special Issue: “How to Lead in a Time of Crisis.” She began writing poetry during the pandemic of 2020.

Missing My Father in Iceland by Robert Coats

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Missing My Father in Iceland
by Robert Coats

We could have hiked together at Ϸingvellir
into the cleft between parting tectonic plates,
you with khaki rucksack and rock hammer
explaining your work on the Aleutian volcanoes,
and how twisted outcrops form
when basalt flows into a subglacial lake.

I could have told you how the settlers’ sheep
ravaged the scraggly birch forests of the Island,
how the sod blankets tore away
in fierce Arctic wind and how
the Independent People shivered and starved
through the Little Ice Age.

Together we would have admired
the ingenuity of the engineers
who capture volcanic heat,
and discussed the terrifying rate
of glacial retreat, the fate
of this land and its people
if the Gulf Stream shuts down.

You would have liked
the alpine fells and moors of Vatnajökull
the gray-green moss-draped lava flows
at Leirvogsvatn, the steep cliffs
of Borgarfjörður in the wind,
always the wind.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Ϸingvellir National Park, Iceland, a site of great historical and scientific interest. The first European Parliament was convened here in the year 930, and here a rift—large enough to walk through— is opening between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Photo by author.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In recent years, Iceland has become a very popular destination for tourists from North America and Europe.  Many were introduced to the struggle of Iceland’s people during the poverty of the 1930s by reading Haldor Laxness’s Nobel Prize-winning novel Independent People.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Coats  has been writing poetry for more than 40 years. His poems have appeared on the Canary Website, in Orion, Zone 3, Windfall, Song of the San Joaquin, in two anthologies (Fresh Water: Poems from the Rivers, Lakes and Streams and Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, and in his book The Harsh Green World, published by Sugartown Publishing.  He is a Research Associate with the University of California Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.